Heinz Kinigadner was on a high as the #1 Motocross World Champion in 1984 and 1985, but that all changed nearly two decades later. It was 2003 and he was attending the MotoGP in Germany when he got the most unsettling phone call of his life.
He was informed his son, Hannes, had taken a major fall at a charity motorcycle race in Austria and suffered possibly major injuries as a result. Heinz dropped everything and hopped on a plane home. When he arrived to visit his son in the ICU, the 19-year-old boy had already suffered two cardiac arrests and a cerebellar infarction. But the real, lasting damage was the severe injury to his cervical vertebra and spinal cord.
He was paralyzed from the neck down, and would be for life.
While devastated by his son’s condition at first, Heinz conjured up hope. He later teamed up with longtime friend and Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz to create Wings for Life, a not-for-profit charitable foundation devoted entirely to supporting spinal cord injury research. Together they sought to provide as much support possible to the long-elusive treatment and cure for spinal cord injury, which generally results in either paraplegia or tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia.
Central to the Wings for Life approach is the annual Wings for Life World Run, an event held on the first weekend in May since 2014. Entering its fifth year, the event has drawn in over 441,000 participants from more than 190 nationalities and covered 4,276,640 kilometers.
What’s unique about the World Run is not only that it is held in dozens of cities around the world at the exact same time. It’s that there is no real “end” to the race. Half an hour after runners begin the race, a chase car begins to follow them. Runners are effectively eliminated from the race as they are eclipsed by the car, meaning one’s race distance could be as little as a few kilometres, to as long as – the current record – 88.44 kilometres, or beyond. All of the entry fees and donations go towards spinal cord research.
We’re proud to join Red Bull and other partners in supporting the Wings for Life World Run for the second consecutive year. It has lead the charge on spinal cord research and, as such, we’re thrilled to sponsor it by providing a platform to liveblog this amazing, worldwide race.
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